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How Many Candles This Year?

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How Many Candles This Year?

AFL’s Dr. Jeri Fink

It’s birthday time. For me.

I need to think fast. Can I cross the date off the calendar without anyone noticing? Go subway surfing without a phone until the day is over? What about claiming that my birthday is fake news?

I was born in the winter – don’t you remember”

No luck. It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to. The only thing I want to celebrate is that the President’s first 100 days are finally over. We only have 1,361 to go.

“Don’t be so negative,” my kids say.

Emma, my 3-year old granddaughter looks at me sympathetically. She sits on the floor with her Grocery Gang – tiny rubber toys with names like Moldy Chips, Icky Pops, and Horrid Hot Dogs. They remind me of the gruesome Garbage Pail Kids from the 80s who had distorted faces and names like Michael Mutant, Soft Boiled Sam, and Adam Bomb.

“Don’t worry Nana,” Emma smiles sweetly, tipping her baseball cap. “You don’t have to sit on the floor with me. Daddy said you’re too old for that.”

Gritting my teeth, I sit on the floor and hug her. I’ll show them. “What does Daddy know?”

Twenty minutes later I try to get up. And try to get up again. No go.

Think about it. Why would I want to celebrate another birthday?

“It beats the alternative,” my friend Janet says. Yeah, she can talk at five years and five candles less than me.

My son offers a helping hand. “We have birthday cake,” he smirks. “All you have to do is get up.”

Cake? Is it sugar free, low salt, and reduced fat?

“The real stuff,” he adds, reading my mind.

I give him the dirtiest look I can conjure.

As birthdays go, I have a very good one – May 1. I share it with people like Calamity Jane, Jack Paar, and Tim McGraw. World events have happened on my auspicious date. The 1328 War of Scottish Independence ended. The 1795 King of Hawaii, Kamehameha 1, conquered the island of Oahu. Mickey Mantle hit his first home run.

When I was a kid, May 1 or Mayday was a holiday celebrated around the world. I was called the Queen of May with a tinge of communism. These days, things have changed. Now all I want to do is sleep through the day. No Maypoles for me.

It’s been a long time since anyone tried to put the appropriate number of candles on my cake. I won’t go into Panera’s for my free pastry, Applebee’s for my free dessert or Moe’s Southwest Grill for my free burrito. I won’t confess my birthday.

Perhaps I’ll settle for a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Diet Coke . . . embracing our President’s latest healthy eating program?

“How old are you?” Emma asks.

I’m 45 years old . . . not including the summers.

I’m celebrating my 40th birthday for the 28th time.

I lost count . . . you know how bad I am with numbers.

My son laughs too hard.

What is it about age? Shouldn’t we be happy to celebrate our birthdays? Confess to our age? Why do we try so hard to look young when we should be proud that we successfully navigated so many years? Why don’t we show off our gray hair, wrinkles, and reading glasses?

I shake my dyed hair and grab my son’s hand. He pulls me upright, politely ignoring the chorus of groans and creaky joints.

That’s when it hit me. I’m going to bribe the cosmos with an offer that can’t be refused.

“This year I’m starting a new tradition,” I announce. “Instead of getting gifts I’m giving gifts to the grandchildren. No parent is allowed to object because it’s my birthday.”

The parents groan. More stuff. The grandkids cheer.

Now there’s a Barbie-on-a-bike, KidPower Activity Band, Mushy Slushy, and Legos Guardians of the Galaxy attending my birthday dinner.

And no one remembers to count how many candles aren’t on my cake.


Dr. Jeri Fink, author, photographer, traveler, and family therapist, challenges the creaky myths of aging. She believes that now is a creative, exciting time to grow and explore new ideas, people, and places. Visit Dr. Jeri at www.jerifink.com,   www.hauntedfamilytrees.com,   or   www.bookwebminis.com to enter her world of discovery, fun, and insights. Her fiction project, Broken, is a series of seven thrillers that defy tradition. She is presently working on Book Web Minis – a series of fun, fast and positive mini books (50-70 pages long) where readers partner with the experts. Check it out at www.bookwebminis.com

She tells us: “I challenge the art of writing by merging fact, fictional elements, interactivity, and photography into nonfiction mini books. I draw from my training in social work, experience in individual and family therapy, professional research, and passion for exploring positive psychology. My 32 published books, hundreds of articles and blogs, speaking engagements, and active online presence all reflect who I am today.”

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